Byron Burger Metro Centre Review – Where Avocado Dreams Come True

Avoid it for as long as you can but there comes a time in all Geordies lives when you must make the perilous journey across the river, through A1 roadworks and visit that desolate land, The Metro Centre. You can only put off the inevitable for so long before your ikea lamps need bulbs, and your desire for cheap storage boxes from The Range becomes too strong and you are forced to go. 

The metro centre is not a place I equate with good food in my mind, I spent a great deal of my adolescence working in the metro centre, first for a designer men’s clothes shop where I would grab my lunch and sometimes dinner from Greggs, and then for a sit in fish and chip resteraunt where becoming sickened from serving fish and chips all day I would eat sausage, bread and gravy in a staff room that stunk of regal king size (oh to be young again!) On reflection,  I don’t think I have ever eaten a vegetable in the metro centre unless mushy peas count. 

However all this has changed. Recently the yellow quadrant has expanded to accommodate a host of upmarket chain eateries, and during our recent jaunt to the land of strip lighting we decided to go for a bite to eat in Byron Burger. 

Byron Burger is actually the last on the strip before you reach the shops again, and it’s set a little back from the other restaurants, though I prefer it this way as it means it’s quieter, it’s a shame for the resteraunt as it deserved to be much busier than it was. 

We told the server that we were vegan and they took great pains to explain everything on the menu we could have. On the face of it it appears that the vegan options are very limited but once she had explained that we could have any burger and just swap it for either a bean pattie or a portebello mushroom then that opened up way more options. It’s worth noting too that all their buns are vegan too so you don’t need to worry about that. 

We went for the tortilla dips with salsa and quacamole to start.


It turns out that their own brand draught beer is vegan too so we had two pints of that also! (Well it would be rude not to.)


I’m not a massive fan of tortilla chips, I can take them or leave them. They are just a vehicle for dip really, but these were lovely and the dips that came with these tortillas were amazing. The salsa was more of a refreshing cool salsa than a hot dip but this is exactly how I like it. The quacamole was very tasty too, chunky and just the right consistency to fit on your chip. 

For the main even we both ordered something called a B Rex, but Andy swapped the burger for a mushroom and I had a bean pattie,  then we swapped the bacon for avocado, the cheese for red pepper and omitted the mayonnaise, apparently you can do this with anything on the menu for no extra charge. The staff were so nice about this and weren’t put out at all, there’s nothing worse than feeling like a pain in the bum when you order. 

We then got a side of sweet potato fries, French fries and the feta and watermelon salad but with avocado instead of feta. (We were hungry ok!)

Our food came very quickly.

Is there a single more beautiful sight than your order on the counter waiting to come to you? I think not.


It became apparent immediately that we had underestimated Bryon Burger’s portion sizes. Normally when you ask for a side of avocado you get a measly slither of a avocado, not an entire avocado. I’m not complaining, I’m far from complaining. It brings a tear of joy to a vegan eye to see that much avocado in one sitting, finally somewhere that understands. 

The bean pattie 


 

The mushroom burger


As usual we ended up halving them and having a bit of both, the bean burger was nice but the mushroom really blew my socks off. 

This is not a first date restaurant mind, you can’t eat the burger daintily.



 The sides were also excellent. I really liked the pickled red onions in the salad and the chips were perfect.


For the first time in our entire lives we were defeated by the amount of avocado, this literally never happens, ever. 


We ate forever and we still had some left! Luckily though the server asked if we wanted a doggy bag, which I would have asked for anyway but I really appreciate it when a server gets in there first. 


Me with my takeaway left overs that will by mashed in rye bread for tonight’s tea. A vegan can’t see avocado go in the bin, it’s not right. 

I was really impressed with Byron Burger. I am always on the look out for places that you could go in a large group and satisfy everyone. I don’t think we’ll ever be able to go to the metro centre again without stopping by. So if you have anything you need to buy from ikea, soften the blow with a meal in Byron Burger! 

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Zizzi’s Vegan Pizza Review

Zizzi’s is one of those restaurants that have completely nailed their target market. They cater exactly for the easy dinner crowd. Whether it’s a staff night out, a family birthday party or a trip to town with the girls turned into a boozy lunch, you know exactly what you’re going to get and that there’ll be something on the menu to suit everyone. Before I went vegan I think I probably took places like this for granted, places that you could just fall into with a big group of people and everyone would be happy. Eating has always been a huge part of my social life and I have to admit that I have been anxious about eating out in groups of people, I don’t want to be the awkward one, but at the same time I don’t want to eat another dry falafel burger or even worse just a bowl of chips. Newcastle has a plethora of vegan and veggie restaurants but it’s unlikely you’re always going to get everyone to eat in those so it’s handy to have some ideas for places you can go in a big group. This is also handy for when you visit other cities for things like hen nights etc, if all else fails you can always go to Zizzi’s.

You really have to admire Zizzi’s new vegan menu. 

https://www.zizzi.co.uk/blog/2016/vegan-and-dairy-free-mozzarella-alternative/ 

Though it’s not expansive the addition of vegan cheese on the pizza is just a sheer thrill. That they haven’t just omitted an ingredient but have actually gone out of their way to create something especially for vegans this is genuinely exciting! They also do a gluten free vegan option so for the poor souls who are vegan AND gluten free can finally have a pizza! 

So to our trip, 

We came for a lunch after grabbing some bits in town. I’ve been suffering with wisdom tooth pain and have been quite whingy so wanted something to cheer myself up. We decided not to do starters and go for straight for the main course. 

We both went for the vegan margarita and added some additions. I had artichoke, peppers and extra pizza sauce added to mine and Andy had peppers and chillis added to his. 

  
When it arrived it was a good size and had generous portions of the extra ingredients. The cheese was very decent but tasted more like a bechmal sauce than a mozzarella, this however made for a very tasty pizza.

We shared a carafe of a red wine and we’re happy to see that most of their wines are vegan too, something that a lot of places manage to leave out. 

I was happy that I hadn’t had a starter as it was just the right amount of food for me. Well once I had pudding as well it was. 

For pudding we both went for the Vegan Necterine which was a baked Necterine with coconut and mango ice cream. It was delicious. 

  
My only complaint which is a bit of a pet hate of mine was that it was served in an unglazed stone bowl so when your spoon grated against the side it set your teeth on edge, especially not nice mixed with ice cream and wisdom teeth pain but I imagine this is a pretty niche moan, and didn’t affect the quality of the experience at all. 

The bill came to £40.75 for two mains, two puddings and a carafe of wine. I know they do one free main if you have a tastecard and they often do deals on voucher sites. 

Overall I was impressed with the quality of the food and the overall experience. It’s definitely going to the top of the list of places to go with a group of people. I didn’t feel like the vegan menu was an afterthought, and I was happy with what we got for the money. Sometimes when you visit an Italian as a vegan it feels like you’re being ripped off as you’re often charged full price even though they basically  give you a bowl of pasta and a tin of tomatoes or a pizza base and some tomato purée, this did not feel like that at all. 

Well done Zizzi’s, I can’t wait to see what you add to the menu next! 

  

A Vegan Sunday Dinner at Toby Carvery 

My family is big on eating out. My Mam, Sister, my nieces and I will often meet up for a meal, in fact everything we do revolves around food. When we visit a museum or a park it will take about 5 seconds before we’ve worked out where the cafe is and are scoffing down an early lunch, sometimes bold as brass before we’ve even entered the attraction we’ve travelled to see. Every meal had the same rythmn to it as well, we’ll get the menus out and pretend to agonise over them then we’ll ask each other what we’re thinking about having, we’ll answer and then invariably someone will say, ‘I can’t decide between a and b’ and someone else will reply ‘well why don’t I get a and you get b and we’ll share?’. Then a collective sigh of relief will go around the table as we realise we will not have to worry that someone else’s meal looks better than ours. Then we’ll eat our meals, my nieces won’t finish theirs and their plates will get passed along the table to me and I’ll polish off the last of their dinners. After that the dessert menu will come we’ll each claim that we can’t fit anything else in but will have a look anyway, then we’ll agonise over it asking each other about every last choice, ‘should I get cream or custard?’, ‘do you think the carrot cake will be nice here’, ‘I’ve got a brownie in the cupboard at home would it be bad to get one here as well?’. Each question will be considered and dissected seriously by each member of the family until we order exactly what we knew we were going to order when we spied the dessert board on the wall at the beginning of the meal. This happens EVERY TIME and it’s wonderful, it’s familiar and comforting and just the way we do things.

So when my Mam text me earlier in the week inviting me for Sunday Dinner I was a bit nervous, where could we go that everyone would be happy? My Mam is a veggie but my sister (and she asked to be described in this way) is a ‘dedicated meat eater’ so where could we go for dinner to cater for everyone?

The answer came in a quite unusual place, Toby Carvery. As an establishment famed for its meat, where the house special is. literally four different meats slapped on a plate, I was delighted to see it not only catered for vegans but was expectionally vegan friendly. 

For a start there are three, yes THREE vegan mains to choose from.  


I got the Lentil Cottage Pie and my Mam got the Spiced Carrot and Chickpea Wellington, we had agreed to swap halfway but when mine arrived it was so delicious I was reluctant to swap, though I did try my Mams and it was delicious too. (I would never get away with this with my sister, if we had agreed to swap she would wrestle it out of my cold dead hands rather than let me eat the whole thing.)

I then asked what else was vegan and the waitress said that she would bring me some steamed vegetables, roast potatoes, stuffing and vegan gravy. She even said she’d bring them to the table so I wouldn’t have to go to the Carvery where all the meat was, this wasn’t really necessary but was incredibly sweet and a gesture that was much appreciated. She brought me SO MUCH FOOD. So much food that it had to go on two plates.

 

  
The pie itself could have been a meal. Let’s have a closer look at that pie.

 
I wish this was tastevision because this was pie was a true delight. It was packed with flavour and the texture was perfect. The roast potatoes also deserve a shout out because they were cooked beautifully, crisp and tasty on the outside, fluffy and creamy on the inside. Yum!!

I did miss having a Yorkshire pudding but I just stole some of the pastry off my Mams pie and that hit the spot.

I ate solidly for about twenty minutes but I was defeated by the portion size. It was just too big. However I was not letting this go in the bin, the waitress gave me a takeaway box and I filled it right to the top with what was left on my plate and it fed both me and my husband in the evening.

 

As you all know, there is always room for dessert. The pudding stomach is real and when presented with the option of a vegan chocolate and cherry tart, well it’s going to be utilised.

   

This was so good! It had a brownie like texture and it didn’t have a weird aftertaste that vegan cakes can sometimes have. There’s only one vegan option for dessert but at least it’s an actual cake and not fruit salad. (Fruit is not a dessert people.)

Afterwards whilst we were clutching our bellies and trying not to slip into a food coma, my sister claimed that if she came back she would get the vegan lentil pie as it was nicer than her meat! 

The only thing I missed was not being to eat my nieces leftovers, but what is my loss is my Mams cat’s gain as my Mam had no qualms about wrapping a whole chicken breast in a serviette and plopping it into her handbag.

I was genuinely surprised at how good the Toby Carvery was and it will no doubt become the scene for many fake deliberations over the menu for years to come. 

What’s your favourite place to eat out with your family?

Ps I have to mention the waitress, the service was really brilliant. She was obviously rushed off her feet but she was attentive and friendly and even chatted to us about her pet rats (this was when my mam tried to sneak a Yorkshire pudding into her handbag to take it back for pet rats, the waitress offered to get her a box for it and a fresh Yorkshire pudding.) 

Cheatin Bacon – Review

It’s a cliche for a reason, bacon is  my weakness. Many a spell of being vegan or veggie in the past have ended with me biting into a hot bacon roll, it’s so predictable that it’s sad.

I was brought up veggie so I am familiar with bacon substitutes, the fake bacon of my childhood still makes me gag thinking about it. Thick cut, beany, with a fake smoky plasticy taste, like someone left a bacon flavoured crayon on a radiator. Vile, but that was 20 years ago so you’d hope that the world of bacon substitutes would have moved on somewhat since then.

With most substitutes I find that they work better if you don’t expect them to taste like the original, you need to judge them in the their own right. I think of them as things that can be eaten in place of, rather than things that taste like. So with this in mind I went looking for something I could happily eat hungover and with loads of ketchup.

I bought my Cheatin Bacon from the Honeytree on Heaton Road  


I love this shop, and it’s so handy for me being just down the road. 

In order to test the Cheatin Bacon I decided to a traditional, no frills, bacon sarnie.

 
The bacon was easy to cook, you just fry each side for a minute and a half, I used the pure soya spread as oil because I’m lazy and I already had it out of the fridge. I only used half a teaspoon as I don’t like greasy bacon anyway. 

  
When it was cooked I piled it on some bread that I had smothered in soya spread and tomato sauce, pretty standard sarnie craic.

   

The bacon was very pleasant, not the horror of veggie bacon past. It had a crunch to it and a faint ‘bacony’  taste. Certainly did the trick as a filling in a ketchup sandwich. 

Did it taste like bacon? No, not at all, and I wasn’t really expecting it to but it was nice in its own right.

Would I buy it again? Definitely.

Marks out of ten. 7/10